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LUMS student protesters want campus reopened for everyone

Management says only 30% students allowed on campus

SAMAA | and - Posted: Jan 25, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Editing & Writing | Yasal Munim
Posted: Jan 25, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

Students of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) want the varsity to reopen its campus for all students as Pakistan has instructed all universities to resume physical classes from February 1.

The students boycotted online classes on Monday and some staged a sit-in outside the university. "Saare milke bolo: LUMS kholo, LUMS kholo" [Everyone chant together: Open LUMS, Open LUMS], students chanted as they sat and held placards.

We want access to our university, a protesting student said.

Related: Varsity students continue to demand online exams in Pakistan

Another student said the campus will remain inaccessible to students in Lahore as the university is opening for those who live in hostels. "Does the university even have a proper reopening plan?"

A student said she has paid more than Rs500,000 to take classes on Zoom. "How is this fair?"

The university charged students approximately Rs400,000 for this semester, according to a student. The figure reaches Rs0.5 million after including tuition, hostel expenses, and travel costs.

On January 20, the management sent an email to students telling them that the campus, which remained closed all of last semester (August to December), is reopening for people who live in hostels---mostly students from other cities.

Three days later, they sent another email saying that the campus is not being reopened for everyone.

"Only yesterday, the authorities provided details and SOPs for the campus opening and highlighted the following directives: "…… in no case shall the total number of students permitted to come to campus exceed 30 per cent of the total enrollment," the management said in an email on January 23. "To determine who is to be prioritised and included in the 30%, the following categories have been determined by the government.

  • Low-income students who may have connectivity problems at home
  • Foreign students
  • Those PhD or MPhil students (of final year students) who need to use the laboratories to complete their thesis work.

The management said that in response to the directives they have to "reassess who will be permitted to stay in hostels and those allowed to come to campus during the day." They added, "this, unfortunately, means that not all students who were notified earlier this week to return to campus by January 30th will be able to do so."

This enraged many students as they had already made preparations to return to campus, such as purchasing their plane or train tickets.

Related: Resume on-campus classes then take physical exams, NUML students demand

"Many of us thought that this is the university's final word and we all booked our tickets," a student said. "Who will refund our tickets now?"

Another student said they booked their tickets and even started packing. "Why are they changing their instructions at the last minute?"

Dr Adnan Khan, the dean of the Office of Student Affairs, spoke to the students at the protest on Monday. He said LUMS is only following the guidelines issued by the HEC.

"It will be easier for us to have you back too," he said, adding that the management cannot risk the lives of its students.

"We are trying our best to accommodate your wishes," said Dr Tariq Mahmood Jadoon, who was appointed vice provost in September 2020, while speaking to the protesters. "We don't gain anything by stopping you all from returning to the campus."

He asked the students if they can assure that they follow all the SOPs, including social distancing and wearing masks. We have to work on a system that doesn't violate the rules, he added.

Bahawalpur students block road

The students of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur staged a protest outside the university and asked for the management to cancel online examinations. They also blocked the road outside the university.

"We want online exams," the students said.

The management said they won't negotiate with the students till they move from the road.

Pakistan instructed all universities to reopen their campuses for students from February 1. Many university students, including those from Islamabad's National University of Modern Languages, and Multan's NFC Institute of Engineering and Technology, have been staging protests against being asked to physically sit exams when universities reopen.

The protesters say throughout the fall semester, classes were taken online through the institution's learning management system which broke down more often than not.

 
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